winter-patience

1.13.21 ~ Stoddard Hill State Park
Ledyard, Connecticut

Several weeks after our first visit to this state park we returned to hike up the hill to the lookout, 183 feet (56 meters) above the river. The leaf-covered path started behind the cemetery and was much more steep than we had anticipated.

looking towards the Thames River from behind Stoddard Cemetery

It wasn’t long before I covered the camera lens and grabbed two strong walking sticks to steady myself. Tim already had his walking stick and was more steady on his feet, but had to stop frequently to catch his breath. I was starting to question the wisdom of embarking on this expedition! Especially when we lost the trail and decided to just keep going up…

several kinds of moss and lichen on a rotting log

When things leveled off a bit I got a few pictures…

mushroom
princess pine trying to poke through the layers of leaves

Near the top we turned around near this ledge and saw the cemetery way down below…

Stoddard Cemetery from high above

At last we could see an opening in the woods and views of the river, trees and railroad tracks below. Tim said it was a good thing we came in the winter because the leaves on the trees would have blocked these lovely scenes. Keep in mind, under these ridges is that jumble of glacial erratics pictured in the last post. We didn’t go close enough to the edge to peek down there.

even way up here there were a few dead fish

Only with winter-patience can we bring
The deep-desired, long-awaited spring.

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
(The Unicorn & Other Poems)

We found the trail again and managed to follow it all the way back down to the cemetery. I’m pleased to report that neither of us fell! I slipped a couple of feet once but my sticks saved me. 🙂 That’s probably enough of steep climbs for us!

hairy woodpecker, telephoto lens
same hairy woodpecker
mallards on Stoddard Cove, also telephoto lens
thin ice on Stoddard Cove

It was nice to finally stand on level ground and take a couple of bird pictures. Phew!

a light shines through us

12.28.20 ~ Stoddard Hill State Park
Ledyard, Connecticut

We took this walk along the banks of the Thames River a couple of weeks ago. Immediately we were confronted with dead, half-eaten fish littering the path. It was pretty creepy and we wondered what on earth was going on. We had to watch our steps!

probably Atlantic menhaden

Later, after asking around, we learned that this phenomenon has been spotted by others taking walks in other natural areas near the river. We tried to ignore the gruesome scene underfoot and enjoy what else the trail had to offer…

spotted wintergreen

From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Selected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson)

fungi? lichen? growing in tree wound cavity
Stoddard Cemetery

We found a cemetery at the foot of a hillside of jumbled glacial erratics. We noticed a couple of stones for local Revolutionary War soldiers.

Stoddard Cemetery
a huge burl on a very thin tree trunk
glacial erratics seeming to tumble down the side of the hill
lichen growing on part of an erratic

In the past month, DEEP Fisheries Division staff have received and investigated numerous calls of reported sightings of dead fish along the Connecticut shoreline, from Darien to New London, and numerous points in between. These incidents, known as fish kills, involve a species of fish called Atlantic Menhaden, also known as “bunker.” Menhaden are the most abundant marine fish species on the east coast, and fish kills involving them are not uncommon. Menhaden fish kills can occur for a variety of reasons, most often due to natural or environmental factors such as school-induced hypoxia (lack of oxygen) or cold water temperature. While DEEP continues to investigate these events, staff believe the cause of the fish kills observed over the past month have been due to more Menhaden overwintering in the Sound this year, possibly due to a missed migration cue, leading them to succumb to the cold water temperatures and a lack of nourishment.
~ The Fisherman website, December 14, 2020

jumble of erratics from another angle
Norwich & Worcester Railroad tracks, Thames River
big scramble of glacial erratics cascading down off Stoddard Hill
looking down over the very steep riverbank
every few steps, another one
???
an open acorn stash

Recently I found a website with pictures of old postcards of huge glacial erratics, many from New England. When the pandemic is over, and if health permits, we might try to visit a few of these! Boulders of the United States

off the beaten path

12.29.20 ~ cute little sapling, Connecticut College Arboretum
New London, Connecticut

Tuesday we donned our masks and warm layers and headed over to the Arboretum to meet my sister and her husband for our first in-person visit since the pandemic started in March, unless you count video calls and quick verbal exchanges from our balcony to the parking lot. We had planned a “safe” outdoor meeting like this to celebrate Thanksgiving and then Christmas, but rain had spoiled our plans for both days.

Beverly & John, geologist and botanist, know the natural areas of the Arboretum like the backs of their hands so I was anticipating a wonderful guided tour, off the beaten path. It did feel awfully unnatural, though, keeping six feet apart behind masks for a couple of hours, but we pulled if off. It was so good being with them again. We explored the Bolleswood Natural Area.

partridge berry

Partridge Berry is a native perennial, a small, woody, trailing vine with 6 to 12 inch, slender, trailing stems that does not climb but lays prostrate on the forest floor. The trailing stems root at nodes which come in contact with the forest surface and may spread into colonies several yards across. … The fruits are tasteless and generally survive through winter and into the following spring. Birds are the primary consumer of these fruits and the subsequent distribution of seeds.
~ US Forest Service website

Knowing about our recent fascination with glacial erratics, Beverly had a surprise for us, a huge one! Our first glimpse of it is below…

first side
front side

It looks like that rotting tree grew up there and was then snapped down in a storm. But it also looks like humans have moved some wood around, making it look like the wood is holding up the stone, but it’s not. It’s resting on other erratics underground.

other side (Tim is 5’8″)
a close-up from the back
a peek underneath ~ two orbs!

After marveling over this erratic’s size and its precarious perch we continued on. Sometimes there was so much moss along the path it reminded me of a forest in Ireland.

And we finally came to a flooded bog. (The drought is definitely over.) It was beautiful with bits of moss, autumn leaves under the water, partial sheets of thin ice, sticks, and a few remaining plants and grasses.

And then John pointed out a carnivorous plant…

pitcher plant hidden in leaves

The pitchers trap and digesting flying and crawling insects, making the species one of the few carnivorous plants in North America. The hollow pitchers fill naturally with rainwater. The pitchers also have broad lips where insects land. The insects crawl into the pitcher, where stiff, downward pointing hairs prevent them from leaving. Anectdoctal evidence suggests pitchers capture less than one percent of the flies that venture into their traps, but a few insects eventually fall into the water at the base of the pitcher, where digestive enzymes secreted by the plant release the nutrients within the insects. Eventually, the nutrients are absorbed by the plant, which supplements the nutrients absorbed by the roots.
~ US Forest Service website

pitcher plant

On our way out of the Arboretum we saw…

winterberry aka black alder
oyster mushroom, thanks to Larisa’s friend for the id

It was sad to say good-bye but we were getting cold and so made our way home to some hot tea. Curled up under our blankets, we put on some music and our happy holiday hearth DVD. Very cozy after having rosy cheeks from the chilly air. Maybe we’ll do this again — hopefully soon.

candlewood pines

4.17.20 ~ Candlewood Ridge, Groton, Connecticut

On Friday we tried the new-to-us park again and this time there was noone in sight at the trailhead – yay! This property was acquired in 2013. After crossing a little bridge over a brook we climbed up to Candlewood Ridge and enjoyed looking up and down the ravine on the other side. We followed the trails for over an hour. Tim’s legs and back did much better and I’m wondering if walking on the earth is better for him than walking on hard surfaces like pavement and concrete.

4.17.20 ~ crossing a stream, skunk cabbage

Candlewood Ridge is part of a critical large block of diverse wildlife habitats highlighted on the State of CT Natural Diversity Database maps: early successional forest, oak-hemlock-hickory upland forest, native shrubby and grassy habitat, forested peatlands, kettle type bogs, tussock sedge, poor fens, multiple seeps, several Tier I vernal pools, and streams.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

4.17.20 ~ almost to the top of the ridge
4.17.20 ~ a very tall bare tree trunk
4.17.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens, a huge boulder across the ravine

The songs of birds filled the air! A chickadee scolded us from a branch so close I could have reached out and touched it. But he flew off before I could lift the camera…

4.17.20 ~ the glacial erratics found here were fewer and more
widely spaced than the ones we saw in Ledyard’s Glacial Park

We followed the trail north along the top of the ridge and then it slowly went downhill until we reached a bridge across another stream. From studying the map it looks like the two unnamed streams join and then eventually merge with Haley Brook.

4.17.20 ~ second bridge on the trail
4.17.20 ~ a squirrel nest
4.17.20 ~ the little stream
4.17.20 ~ vernal pool?

All the green under the water (above) looked to me like drowning princess pines.

4.17.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens across the sand plain
4.17.20 ~ the sand plain with glacial erratic in the distance

We turned around here without crossing the plain and climbing that ridge!

4.17.20 ~ might these be the candlewood pines
(pitch pines) the ridge is named for?
4.17.20 ~ pussy willows
4.17.20 ~ one tree favors moss, the other lichens

Crossing the stream on the return trip, a tiny bright spot of yellow-orange caught my eye. What is it??? I used the telephoto lens to get a picture and tried to identify it when I got home. Hope I got it right. A mushroom.

4.17.20 ~ calostoma cinnabarinum, telephoto lens
(stalked puffball-in-aspic or gelatinous stalked-puffball)

Just before crossing the second stream on the return walk, a garter snake slithered across the path right in front of me. Startled, I then spotted him trying to hide in the leaves. Don’t think I’ve seen a garter snake since I was a child, sunning themselves on the stone walls around the garden.

4.17.20 ~ hiding garter snake

It was a wonderful walk!

4.17.20 ~ beauty in a vernal pool

I go to Nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more.
~ John Burroughs
(The Gospel of Nature)

wood wide web

“Landscape with Stump” by Ivan Shishkin

But the most astonishing thing about trees is how social they are. The trees in a forest care for each other, sometimes even going so far as to nourish the stump of a felled tree for centuries after it was cut down by feeding it sugars and other nutrients, and so keeping it alive. Only some stumps are thus nourished. Perhaps they are the parents of the trees that make up the forest of today. A tree’s most important means of staying connected to other trees is a “wood wide web” of soil fungi that connects vegetation in an intimate network that allows the sharing of an enormous amount of information and goods. Scientific research aimed at understanding the astonishing abilities of this partnership between fungi and plant has only just begun.
~ Peter Wohlleben
(The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate ~ Discoveries from a Secret World)

helping hand

RenoufHelpingHand
“The Helping Hand” by Émile Renouf

The first time I ever saw a print of this painting was at an estate sale, not long after my father died on September 19th in 2013. The expression on the man’s face reminded me of my father and the little girl reminded me of myself so I bought it. It’s not in the greatest condition and the coloring is way off. Perhaps the coloring on this digital copy is off, too. Some day I may replace it with a better copy.

He’s been gone for three years now and I still miss him, my favorite teacher. Papa taught me how to wash my hair, how to cross the street, how to trust my own instincts, how to treat animals, how to be compassionate and kind, how to swim, how to ice skate, how to paddle a canoe, how to chop an onion, how to look up words in a dictionary, how to do research, how to enjoy bird-watching, how to garden, how to walk (and play) in the woods — the list goes on. I think of him every time I do any of those things.

It’s almost autumn and I will be eating as many Macoun apples as I can while the season lasts. They were his favorites. He often told me the following story when I was growing up. (It first appeared almost 6 years ago on my blog!)

When my father was a boy growing up on a New England farm during the Great Depression, his family picked as many apples as they could and stored some of them in a barrel in the root cellar. Of course he ate as many as he could while picking them, but his parents had a rule about the ones in the barrel he found exasperating. If anyone wanted an apple later in the fall or winter, he was required to take one that was the least fresh. By the time they got to the fresher ones they had also become much less fresh! So all winter he was having to make do with eating not-so-great apples. If only he had known he might have called on Iduna to keep the apples fresher longer!
~ Barbara Rodgers
(Iduna: Keeper of Apples)

But perhaps I miss him the most whenever I hear a story on the news about a threat from a new virus or other infectious agent. Dad was a microbiologist and was utterly fascinated with microorganisms — viruses, bacteria, spirochetes, amoebas, fungi, parasites. He would never tire of explaining things about them to me and correcting any misinformation the media might be passing along to his fellow citizens. And I never tired of listening. I find myself wondering what he would have had to say about the Zika virus. It’s not easy finding someone so interested in this subject!

I didn’t notice it at first, but my father died on his older brother’s birthday. Jon Stephen was born on September 19th in 1909 in Ukraine. My father, Theodore William, never knew his older brother because Jon died of a ruptured appendix on March 15th in 1919 in New York, when he was only 9 years old. Papa was born three years later on March 13th in 1922. A little bit of synchronicity there I think.

Still missing you, my dear old Papa!

amazing mycelium

giant mushrooms (Auckland, New Zealand) photo by wonderferret
giant mushrooms (Auckland, New Zealand) photo by wonderferret

I believe that mycelium is the neurological network of nature. Interlacing mosaics of mycelium infuse habitats with information-sharing membranes. These membranes are aware, react to change, and collectively have the long-term health of the host environment in mind. The mycelium stays in constant molecular communication with its environment, devising diverse enzymatic and chemical responses to complex challenges.
~ Paul Stamets
(Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World)

Paul Stamets on 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World

natural internet

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
contrast of bright sunlight and shade for a mushroom ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Every time I see mushrooms I think of Paul Stamets and his theory about mycelium, “the vegetative part of a fungus consisting of a mass of branching thread like hyphae.”

I see the mycelium as the Earth’s natural Internet, a consciousness with which we might be able to communicate. Through cross-species interfacing, we may one day exchange information with these sentient cellular networks. Because these externalized neurological nets sense any impression upon them, from footsteps to falling tree branches, they could relay enormous amounts of data regarding the movements of all organisms through the landscape.
~ Paul Stamets
(Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World)

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

I first read about Stamets a few years ago when I was waiting and skimming through magazines at my aunt’s dentist’s office. The idea of the earth being conscious was something I already believed in and the article I was reading mentioned something about the connections between fungi physically resembling the neurons in human brains. I was captivated and ordered his book that night. At some point I found a talk he gave on TED, 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World.

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
the first tree that grabbed our attention ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

I have to admit that I began reading the book but couldn’t continue because it was scientifically way over my head. I brought the book to my Dad, the microbiologist, and my brother-in-law, the botanist, and they devoured it and were impressed by the theory as well. My brother-in-law commented that the idea was in line with what they were researching when he used to work at The New Alchemy Institute, before it evolved into The Green Center.

But I digress and must return to our walk. Yesterday I was having a lot of trouble organizing the post and accidentally published it before I was done. Wasn’t sure if I could un-publish it without deleting it so I decided to call it a day.

Janet and I kept leaving the trails in pursuit of getting a closer look at some of the more unusual trees. The first one had a benign tumor, or a burl. The burl could have been caused by an injury, infection, or an unformed bud gone haywire. Any of these things can trigger the cells to grow excessively and unevenly, leaving it with unique shapes and ring patterns. Woodworkers and artists often find creative ways to use the patterns found in burled wood.

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
close up of burl ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

We saw a lot of poison ivy and thought we did a pretty good job of avoiding it. But it would seem I got zapped somehow and within 48 hours broke out in a mild rash. Apparently as we age there is a tendency for the reaction we get to be less severe, which seems to be what is happening with me. Benadryl is keeping the itch pretty tolerable. One thing is puzzling though, the rash is on my neck and arms. I’ve had it on my neck another time – four years ago after we attended outdoor concerts two nights in a row at the amphitheater in Saratoga Springs, New York. We were in the woods but stayed on the sidewalks. On our way home the rash broke out so I went to the walk-in clinic here and they said it was poison ivy! Such a possibility had never entered my mind.

I wonder why it broke out on my neck that time and this time, too. The only other time I’ve had it was when I was a kid and it was all over my face and arms. That time I could logically trace it to the fact that I had been crawling around on my hands and knees playing hide and seek in the bushes at a picnic. It was a crummy way to start the summer, and it was much worse than this episode.

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
a closer look ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Janet noticed a tree which seemed to have four or five trunks reaching up from the main trunk. So off we went to get a closer look, leaving the trail behind us – somewhere…. Goodness knows what we were walking through…

Still can’t figure out what was so mesmerizing abut this tree. I just had to touch it. It has a very strong energy and I bet we couldn’t find it again if we were required to. (I’m still looking for another tree I saw there last winter…)

A Murmur in the Trees – to note –
Not loud enough – for Wind –
A Star – not far enough to seek –
Nor near enough – to find –
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #433)

After meandering around, not really that lost, we spotted a bright sunny clearing beyond the trees! So we forgot about locating the trail again, and headed off to discover what we might find in a  summer meadow. Maybe dragonflies?

7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
a glimpse of a sunny meadow ~ 7.2.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

The meadow chapter of the story will have to be put into the next post…

He walked and he walked, and the earth and the holiness of the earth came up through the soles of his feet.
~ Gretel Ehrlich
(Legacy of Light)